Do You Really Need a Business Plan?

179078545You hear the stories about the successful entrepreneurs that just took the plunge with no business plan at all and voila! A business is born! But do you really want to risk starting your business without a clear path on how you’ll grow beyond the startup years? In a recent New York Times “Small Business” article several small business owners weigh the pros and cons of a business plan.

When Joanna Elkayam was laid off from a job selling bonds at Fidelity Investments in 2011, she had been working on a business plan for months. She wanted to open a spa with her husband, Avi, who already owned a successful hair salon.

“I got my M.B.A. from Boston University in 2008 and followed all the rules for writing that plan,” Ms. Elkayam said. “I even used my old textbooks. I wanted to get it right, especially because we needed to get a loan from our credit union, which had just started a loan program for start-ups.”

The 150-page plan had enormous detail, she said, down to a description of the kinds of employees she wanted to hire and a code of conduct for them to follow.

For more, click here.

You can get one-on-one help to create your perfect business plan by calling the experts at SCORE OC.

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5 Tax Tips for Your Company Holiday Party

holiday partyEveryone is in the holiday spirit, and this means parties! But as a small business owner with seemingly never-ending expenses, planning your company’s holiday party can be stressful.

However, what business owners may not know is that they can deduct many of the expenses associated with their holiday parties.

Taking these steps when planning your company party will help you maximize your end-of-the-year deductions:

  1. Keep a guest list – This shows that you invited staff and spouses or clients and customers.
  2. Take pictures – Get photos or video of the party that show the environment of the party and hopefully some great shots of your product or services.
  3. Save all the receipts – Hold on to any receipts for anything you plan to deduct.
  4. Keep it professional – Announcements and invitations should show that this is a business event and promote your products or services.
  5. Keep gifts and entertainment within reason – Flying yourself and a few VIPs to a tropical destination is not going to pass muster, but having a great party at an exclusive venue can be fully deducted.

A party can be planned in a way that allows the company to save the maximum taxes on entertainment.

Joseph Rehm is an enrolled agent The Tax Defense Network’s nationwide network of tax professionals provides financial advice and tax resolution services around the country.

Do You Think Like an Entrepreneur?

entrepreneurYou may know your profession like no one else, but when it comes to things like taxes, choosing business insurance and finding financing you probably need some serious advice. You might risk it and learn as you go, but then again, your business might not make the learning curve. There are many reasons small businesses fail and not knowing how to think like an entrepreneur is one of them.

Ask yourself:

  1. Are you averse to risk?
  2. Do you hate to be told no?
  3. Do you want things your way and only your way?
  4. Are you open to listening to others’ opinions?
  5. Are you a people pleaser to a fault and try to make too many people happy?
  6. Do you learn from your mistakes?

Entrepreneurs need to be willing to take on enough risk to face a challenge head-on, but confident in their own decision-making abilities.

If you think you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, but need a little help with the basics, try these helpful places:

SCORE (of course). Free (or low cost) help is available at SCORE OC and can give you advice from startup to the growth stages. Check out the many workshops available and then make an appointment to get personalized advice about your business.

Colleges and universities: More and more colleges are offering courses to help new entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Find a course in business plan preparation, management or marketing. Many colleges offer courses at night and on weekends so you can run your business during the day and learn at night.

Business incubators. Incubators are facilities where various startups locate to share space, services and network with each other. If you’re still deciding on a location for your business, an incubator could offer everything you need to get started. Visit the National Business Incubation Association website to find a location near you.

Shadow another business owner. Sometimes finding a mentor in your industry is as easy as attending a networking meeting or trade show event. Seasoned entrepreneurs are often willing to help startups with advice and mentoring in certain areas of entrepreneurship. Even having someone you know you can call on for a quick opinion can help you sleep better at night—and teach you how to think like an entrepreneur.